By Win Cowger
“Wow, it’s a bee just chillin’ on my glove,” I thought to myself as I stared at the yellow jacket! I tried not to disturb it while I looked down to find my next stump to spray. By the next time I looked up five more yellow jackets had joined the glove party. I got a little concerned about this gathering once I noticed that they were trying to sting me through my gloves.
Experiencing cognitive dissonance, worried that they may sting me more if I moved and that more would come if I stayed, I walked over to my crew mate and showed him the yellow jackets. I was hoping that he would know what to do but, unfortunately, he didn’t. I started to panic and yell at my other crew members to stop their brush saws and help me. Crew leader Isaac told me to get away from our crew, which seemed reasonable. I walked quickly through the woods to the street while a bee snuck up my pant leg and stung me four times with his co-conspirator, who got me through my shirt.
By this time thirty yellow jackets were swarming me, most on my chaps, so I took the chaps off and started to run to the car. I sat in the car another ten minutes, stripped down to my underwear, wondering if it would ever be safe to go back outside and questioning what I could have done better to avoid the situation.
I’m lucky that I happened to be fully clothed and didn’t have an allergic reaction. It is my hope that no one will have to experience this horror, but on the off chance that it happens to any of you wonderful readers I have done some research to guide you through it. The factual information below comes from the National Parks Service website.
Lessons I learned the hard way:
Yellow jackets live in hives that can be located in ground holes, trees and buildings. I didn’t realize that I disturbed a nest (it was likely a ground nest) because I never saw one. My reaction was slow because I didn’t initially notice that they were attacking me. Do not run in a panic or stay in one spot. Running makes more of them come after you and staying in one place makes it easier for them to find you.
Steps to safely avoiding harm during a yellow jacket attack:
- Notice you are being attacked by yellow jackets.
- Slowly walk away through dense brush if possible while covering your sensitive areas.
- Continue to walk further away from the initial location until they are all gone (I don’t know if anyone really knows how far is needed but for me it was about 100 meters until they gave up their chase).